RPS moves forward with reviewing curriculums following teacher survey

Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 6:26 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 4, 2022 at 10:55 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Bickering ensued during an hours-long Richmond School Board meeting as leaders debated the division’s curriculum Monday night.

This all comes after the SOL scores from last school year came back, showing declines in every subject, but parents say it’s been an ongoing issue for over a year.

“Well, I have been watching this curriculum debate since April of 2021,″ Jeannie Bowker, an RPS parent, said.

Bowker has three students in RPS schools and said the struggle really started when changes were made to the math and reading curriculums.

“I could see my kids struggling and have seen them struggling with certain aspects of this curricula,” Bowker said. “So I am just so relieved this may actually take place now.”

During Monday night’s meeting, in a split vote, the board decided to move forward with forming working groups to review curriculums for language arts and math and science.

A teacher survey showed that most math and science teachers wanted to continue using the current curriculum, with the ability to make adjustments as they see fit, but 51 percent of English teachers want to stop using the reading curriculum.

Bowker said being able to adjust to what’s required has been an issue that’s caused the school division to lose good teachers.

“I know at my kid’s school like a fair amount of teachers have left, and some have made it pretty clear that it’s curriculum related,” Bowker said.

School board vice chair Kenya Gibson introduced the measure Monday night and said she’d seen the loss first hand.

“We’ve been hearing from teachers over the past two years that they’re not happy. Teacher retention has been awful,” Gibson said. “My own son has lost teachers every single year and in the middle of the school year. What I hear from a lot of teachers is the reason why they’re leaving is because of the curriculum.”

Superintendent Jason Kamras has stated teachers will not be disciplined if they find a way to fit their student’s needs better.

Parents hope that creating a team with teachers on it will benefit not only students but keeping educators in the future.

“It’s been used as, oh, the teachers don’t have time to create a curriculum, so why would we take that away from them,” Bowker said. “But at the same time, these curricula that we purchased are burdensome and add time to them. I am just so beyond hopeful that those teachers will have a voice in shaping where we go as a district.”

In a pretty quick turnaround, as the motion states, the task force will be introduced at the board’s Oct. 17 meeting with its findings presented by the end of this year.